12 Feb 24

EVs "40% more sustainable" than petrol cars

Electric vehicles (EVs) registered in 2020 are 40% more sustainable than cars with petrol engines, a study by Germany’s Federal Environmental Agency (UBA) shows. That figure will increase to 55% by 2030. 

EVs are more sustainable in operation than petrol cars. But what if you factor in production and disposal? Even across the entire vehicle life cycle, EVs are 40% more sustainable, a new study by UBA shows. 

55% in 2030

With green energy sources expanding rapidly, that figure is expected to increase to 55% by 2030, in Germany at least. Pointedly, EVs will keep their climate advantage even if the share of sustainably manufactured e-fuels increases in the years to come.
“EVs are essential to achieve our climate goals. To make them more attractive, cars with higher emissions should be subject to a registration surcharge. Only then will Germany reach its goal of 15 million EVs by 2030”, said Dirk Messner, UBA president.

However, the UBA study does point out some negative impacts EVs have on the environment, specifically on water (eutrophication, e.g. algal blooms) and on soil (acidification). This is mainly because of the fossil fuels still used to generate electricity. As that share diminishes, so will these negative effects. By 2050, EVs will cause 27% less eutrophication than petrol cars. 

Electric trucks

Also, the negative environmental impact of mining raw materials (cobalt, nickel, lithium, among others) critical for EV battery production will decrease as recycling these materials from used batteries increases. 

The UBA study also looked at the environmental impact of light trucks powered by LNG: it turns out there is no environmental advantage over diesel trucks – not for those registered in 2020, nor for those that will be registered in 2030. However, electric trailer trucks registered in 2030 would be up to 78% more sustainable than their fossil-fuel counterparts, largely due to the high mileage of this vehicle type.

Germany’s reduced toll for trucks has created great potential for e-trucks, which should be responded to by the expansion of charging infrastructure aimed specifically at trucks, the UBA says.  

Image: Dietmar Rabich, CC BY-SA 4.0

Authored by: Frank Jacobs